Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

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Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: August 6, 2008
Director: David Gordon Green

When a lazy, stoner process server named Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) witnesses the murder of a Chinese drug dealer at the hands of Ted Jones (Gary Cole), the guy he was supposed to serve, he flees the scene of the crime and heads back to the guy who sells him pot (and his only friend) Saul Silver (James Franco). When it comes to light that Ted Jones is a major drug dealer, and the same guy who gave Saul a highly-rare strain of pot called Pineapple Express, the hapless duo realize that a couple of roaches left at the scene of the crime can be traced back to them. The two set out on the run from crooked cops and hired thugs, and all of them want the stoners dead.

I recently rewatched this, wondering if my original opinion had changed, and it did not. If anything, I think I like it more now than I did a couple years ago when I first saw it.

This is a stoner comedy done right. It has the appropriate amount of “touching” moments, without being sappy (like many of Adam Sandler’s comedies), has a lot of hilarious dialogue and stoner situations and, of course, has a lot of comedic talent.

Seth Rogen’s witty, sarcastic Dale Denton is a great character and we also see James Franco really dig in with his vapid, carefree portrayal of Saul Silver. Then, we have Danny McBride, who is hilarious as usual. There are lots of other cameos by other really funny people, too, like Bill Hader and Craig Robinson. It’s just a great ensemble cast.

The movie clipped along at a nice pace. Nothing really got too bogged down. There were plenty of chase scenes and awkward situational humor. I knew the inevitable rift between the main characters would come, and I disliked the way it was done in this film only because it was phoned ahead and it was hard not to see it coming when it did.

Many folks will prefer other movies by Team Apatow, like Knocked Up or Superbad. Those are great movies, too, but I think this one should be compared more to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or Dude, Where’s My Car?. Next to those last two stoner flicks, I really think Pineapple Express can hold its own. If you don’t enjoy this movie, chances are, you don’t really like stoner flicks in general.

For a “stupid-humor” film, though, this has a pretty smart screenplay and some really great direction by David Gordon Green.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Pineapple Express